In terms of gender etiquette, Poles are typically conservative. It is usual for males to hold doors and seats open for ladies. When greeting or saying farewell, some men, especially elderly males, may kiss a woman’s hand. Kissing a woman’s hand is considered gallant by some, although it is becoming more outmoded. Handshakes are allowed; however, males should not extend their hand to a woman; a handshake is only deemed courteous if the lady extends her hand to the man first. Close friends of opposite sex or two ladies may embrace and kiss three times, exchanging cheeks, for a more sincere welcome or farewell.
It is quite usual for individuals to greet one other with a dzie dobry (good day) when entering elevators or, at the absolute least, to say do widzenia (good bye) while leaving elevators. Men should not wear hats indoors, especially while entering a church (quite the opposite in case of synagogues, where men are required to wear headgear). Cloakrooms are common at restaurants, museums, and other public facilities, and patrons are expected to leave their bags and outerwear there.
When welcomed to someone’s house, it is customary to provide a present. Flowers are usually a nice option, and florists’ stalls may be found everywhere. Make an effort to purchase an odd amount of flowers, since an even number is linked with funerals. Poles will often bring vodka or whiskey, but this depends on the degree of acquaintance and the hosts’ drinking preferences, so proceed with caution. People’s views about alcohol vary from cheerful and enthusiastic pleasure in both practice and word to taking offense at the idea that Poles are more likely to use alcohol.
It is preferable to refer to Poland (as well as other nations such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) as Central Europe rather than Eastern Europe. Although not particularly unpleasant, its usage may indicate outsiders’ ignorance and a certain disdain for the region’s history and obviously Latin cultural heritage. Poles refer to the “old” EU west of its boundaries as “Zachód” (West), and the nations formed following the dissolution of the USSR as “Wschód” (East). Drawing a line from the point of Norway to Greece and from the Urals to the coast of Portugal demonstrates this geographically. For better or worse, Poland stands at Europe’s crossroads, smack dab in the middle of the continent. Poland is politically, culturally, and historically associated with “the West.”
Another minor blunder is mistaking Polish with Russian or German. Poles place a high importance on their language since it was maintained at a premium through a lengthier time of harsh depolonisation during the partitions and WWII. This includes not saying’spasibo’ or ‘danke’ for ‘thank you’ just because you believed it was Polish or because you didn’t care. If you’re unsure if your ‘Polish’ words are really Polish, it’s courteous to inquire. When asking for directions, referring to Polish cities and locations by their previous German names (e.g., Breslau instead of Wrocaw) may create confusion and be seen as insulting and disrespectful to the Polish people.
The open exhibition of the Communist red star and hammer and sickle emblems, as well as the Nazi swastika and SS symbols, is illegal. Even if it’s only a joke, make sure your clothes doesn’t have these symbols on it. It is punishable by a fine.
Poles may be the most devoutly Catholic population in Europe, particularly in rural regions and after religion was reinstated in Poland in 1989. The late Pope John Paul II, in particular, is loved here, and the Church is usually regarded in high regard. This may cause conflicts between Poland and the Czech Republic, and Poles may harbor animosity against Czechs as a result (and vice versa). If religion is brought up in discussion with a Pole, keep this in mind. Also, while entering a church, dress modestly, particularly during services.
The Holocaust was a genocide against European Jews. It was a particularly difficult period for Poland. Three million of the victims were Polish Jews. Furthermore, at least 1.8 million non-Jewish Poles were killed, mostly by Germans, and many others were enslaved. Among the deceased were members of minority groups, members of the intellectual, Roman Catholic priests, and political opponents of the Nazis. Between the censuses of 1939 and 1945, Poland’s population fell by more than 30 percent, from 35 million to 23 million. Nonetheless, there are still small-minded right-wing organizations that survive, and anti-Semitic graffiti may still be seen in most towns and cities.
Remember that using terms like “Polish death camps” or “Polish concentration camps” in a historical discussion is an absolute no-no. While there is no ill will between Poland and Germany in the twenty-first century, the Poles are very sensitive to deliberate efforts to shift responsibility for atrocities perpetrated by the former Nazi Germany. Highlighting Polish collaborators with the Nazi government is viewed as demeaning the hundreds of thousands of Poles who risked their lives assisting Jews, which resulted in Poland being the country with the highest representation among the Righteous Among the Nations awardees.